Posted September 25th 2013 at 2:52 am by
in In This Building

Searching for Buildings in Greater Boston

This post is one in a series documenting In This Building: Multimedia and Place-based Storytelling, a class at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning in the fall of 2013.

And so our search for the stories in buildings has begun. The bulk of our second class was spent discussing the buildings we’d set our eyes on and trying to determine how viable they were as project subjects.

Steve (the 1/3 of our teaching staff, an editor at the Boston Globe) set up the discussion just as he would have a conversation with reporters at the Globe. Everyone sat down, described the building they wanted to study, and made a pitch as to why the building might be interesting. The buildings were all different types, from classic Bostonian triple-deckers to renovated fire stations. Steve, however, got right beyond the walls of our buildings and pushed us to explain where “the story” was. Here are just a few quick snippets of some of our proposed buildings:

Searching for Buildings in Greater Boston

Photo by Natasha Balwit.

Natasha: found a house with a convenience store attached to the building. 

Natasha’s questions: Does the owner of the convenience store live in the attached building? Do the residents have a relationship with store owners and store customers? The dynamic could be interesting.

Andy: found a house that claims to be off the energy grid, or at least as far off as possible at the moment.

Andy’s questions: The house could be a series of paradoxes: a single-family, net zero dwelling in a neighborhood almost completely filled by multi-unit apartment buildings. Is this building a case study of elitism in the environmental movement? Or is this the future? What is the owner’s vision?

Rachel: found a building that is rumored to be an inn only for seafarers and their families.

Rachel’s questions: The fishing industry has suffered a sharp decline in New England in recent years. How is this type of accommodation surviving in modern times? What is it like to stay there, and what has it been like in the past?

That’s just a small selection of the houses we discussed. Our next task is to dig deeper, do some groundwork, and determine whether or not our proposed hooks are legitimate. Next week there will undoubtedly be some shifting, but hopefully it’ll be in the direction of more interesting stories.

If you were to tell a story of a building in your neighborhood, which building would it be? Why that one?

Post by Lawrence Barriner II.

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